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Monday, November 22, 2004
Updated: November 23, 4:23 PM ET
The punishment fits the crime

By Pat Forde
ESPN.com

Hooray to the administrations at Clemson and South Carolina. Hooray for doing the unheard of in modern college athletics: putting honor above money. Hooray for taking a cue from David Stern and showing that athletes who demean sport with violence deserve swift and severe punishment.

The universities' decision Monday to forgo bowl bids after their incredibly embarrassing brawl was a brave one. It will outrage two fan bases that are among the most loyal in America. It will break the hearts of bowl executives, who love to see the orange-and-purple and black-and-garnet hordes come to town, filling stadiums and hotels. It will hurt athletic departments that can always use the bowl revenue.

And it no doubt will anger players and coaches, who see a bowl bid as their just reward for a winning season.

To which I say: So what? It's the right call. Vile behavior has consequences in our society -- even if it occurs on the football field.

With a startling outbreak of mob mentality, those guys forfeited any right to a postseason award. (And besides, with matching 6-5 records neither team is exactly being kept out of a truly significant bowl game. Now bowl execs must scrounge for two more eligible teams -- not easy this season.)

The players should be ashamed of themselves for a complete loss of control. It was appalling under any circumstance, but the fact that it came less than 24 hours after the NBA travesty in Detroit makes it intolerable. Instead of learning a lesson about what not to do, the Tigers and Gamecocks obviously took the opposite lesson -- acting like savages is OK because, hey, we're athletes. If your manhood is challenged, swing your fists, swing a helmet, kick somebody -- go for it.

In fact, the only things that kept this from being even uglier than the Pacers-Pistons debacle was the fact that no fans were involved, and the players were wearing protective gear. At least until some had their helmets ripped off.

This should be a lesson to coaches everywhere as well. Too often, football coaches tacitly approve of -- and in some cases encourage -- fights in practice. They want to see who's mean enough, who's nasty enough, to cut it on game day.

The brawl at Clemson proved only who was stupid enough to be dragged into such sorry behavior.

As tough as the call was at Clemson, it had to be even harder at South Carolina.

A bowl game under expected new coach Steve Spurrier could mean a one-month head start on adjustments to a new system. Spurrier would be able to begin evaluating personnel, and the players would be able to start fitting into a drastically different offensive scheme.

A tough call, but ultimately the right call. Both teams should stay home for the holidays.

Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.